Outdoor School is...


  • 88% of five-time high school Student Leaders reported using skills they gained at ODS in science and math classes

"My Student Leader made lessons fun and easy to learn. She made me excited about soil and rocks!"
                                                                                                           - Sixth-grade student


  • Outdoor School serves more than 2,000 students with specific needs every year.

"Suffering  a stroke one week before birth left her totally paralyzed requiring a life supporting ventilator and 24-hour care. We would like to thank the team at Outdoor School for helping Wryleigh experience many outdoor activities never before known to her."

- Parent of a sixth-grade student


  • 50% of student leaders who completed just two weeks of leadership reported using skills they gained at ODS in mediating conflicts among peers.

"I learned things about myself, like the fact that if you're confident in yourself enough, you can do anything. I will always remember my Student Leader for the rest of my life."

- Sixth-grade student


  • 65% of student leaders who had  completed four weeks of leadership report that ODS has had a "large influence" on their interest in other volunteer opportunities.

  • For every one hour of paid staff time, Outdoor School averages 10 hours of volunteer time.

"ODS has reminded me that we are all a part of the same environment and community, so we need to respect each other and nature."
                                                                                         - High school Student Leader

Our Future:

  • 81% of high school Student Leaders report that Outdoor School contributed to their knowledge of jobs in the environmental field.

"Outdoor School is the finest program to have come out of education in my [32-year] professional career. The Multnomah ESD Outdoor School program, in particular, is the absolute best of the many programs I have experienced. The program and its delivery are so well conceived that I can honestly say it is unmatched by any other program in any area of our curriculum provided for students. We strive in education to truly have a lifelong impact on our students and their families and I can honestly say that Outdoor School does a better job of this than probably anything else."
                                                                                                          - Sixth-grade teacher

Why Outdoor School?

For many children, ODS is their very first experience hiking in a forest, getting their feet wet in a stream or exploring sea life along a sandy beach. For others, ODS gives them new understanding and perspectives about the natural world they thought they already knew. These experiences expand young minds and can transform lives.

Significant research supports the benefits of ODS:

  • Achievement and comprehension in math and science increases
  • Testing scores and attendance goes up
  • Motivation to learn increases and class performance improves
  • ODS programming directly supports systems thinking and STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) learning and meets state education curriculum standards
  • And more

Develops Critical Thinking
An inquiry-based program, ODS is a unique chance for kids to experience the connections among living things and biological systems, such as watersheds or riparian forests. Instead of learning these concepts from a book, students develop critical thinking skills by asking questions in the field then working together to investigate, measure and report their discoveries. Students simply can’t get the same natural science experience inside a classroom.

Gets Kids Unplugged & Positively Engaged
Instead of being glued to digital screens, students conduct real-world natural science projects, nurturing a lifelong connection to the land. This is an important aspect of the program; Oregon’s economy−and future−relies on supporting our natural resource industries, such as timber, tourism, outdoor recreation, farming and more. Outdoor School is a great way to teach future generations that they don’t need to choose between our economy and our environment.

ODS programs often mix students from different schools and diverse backgrounds. Children share communal meals, cabins, field studies and fun within a safe, positive and inclusive environment. Guided by caring adults and role models, they learn healthy social interaction and personal expression, and how to work in a team and as a leader.

High School Students Benefit, Too
In many programs, high school students volunteer as junior counselors (also called student leaders) to work directly with younger students while receiving guidance and feedback from staff. They gain invaluable skills relevant to work, school and life. For example, high school student leaders at MESD Outdoor School participate in a post-experience survey to determine leadership and other skill-building outcomes. The survey is aligned to career-related learning standards and American School Counselor Association (ASCA) goals. For high school students who volunteer for one week of ODS leadership, 87% said ODS made them more likely to spend time on their own in the outdoors.

Additionally, Outdoor School increased high school volunteers':

  • Confidence: 90%
  • Public Speaking Skill: 85%
  • Self-advocacy skills: 79%
  • Desire to be a good student: 71%
  • Interest in other volunteer opportunities: 87%
  • Interest in math and science: 65%
A video about Outdoor School:

Why Outdoor School